Minorities in Europe keeping their fingers crossed: Sønderborg / Sonderburg – Capital of Culture 2017



Sønderborg wants to become the European Capital of Culture in 2017. The German name for Sønderborg is Sonderburg and the town is located in the Danish region of South Jutland / Sønderjylland, which is called Nordschleswig by the Germans. The town will not go it alone, but considers itself as the candidate on behalf of the whole German-Danish border region. Four autochthonous minorities are living in this border region, all of whom are also member of FUEN: the German minority in Denmark, the Danish minority in Germany, the Frisians and the Sinti & Roma.

Tomorrow, on 24 August 2012, the decision will be made. It will be shown live on several big screens in the region. The jury will have to decide between the German-Danish border region / Sønderborg 2017 and the second biggest Danish town of Arhus.

The application of Sønderborg and its motto “Countryside Metropolis” offers some insights into the ambitious goals. Arhus tries to convince the jury with its slogan “Rethink”.


“I keep my fingers crossed and I hope that the Sønderborg’s bid for 2017 will be accepted. The 94 member organisations of FUEN are supporting the application from the German-Danish border region. It would be very much in conformity with the basic idea of a European Capital of Culture if a successful minority region in Europe would be selected. In Europe we need good examples that show how national controversies can be resolved in a peaceful manner. The German-Danish border region is a good example. What could be better than showing within the framework of the European Capital of Culture 2017 the development from national antagonism in the past through a period of coexistence to the situation of harmony and understanding nowadays?”, explained FUEN-president Hans Heinrich Hansen, who has been the chairman of the German minority in Denmark for many years. He adds: “the minorities are the unique feature of the region. There is nothing like this anywhere else in Denmark or Germany.”

With 94 member organisations in 32 European countries FUEN is the umbrella organisation of the autochthonous minorities. About 100 million people are part of one of these autochthonous minorities or speak a regional or minority language. FUEN has its main seat in Flensburg.

Notwithstanding the euphoria and excitement it is worth mentioning how this all started. The idea was introduced years ago by a member from the German minority, who acquired his political skills in the youth umbrella organisation YEN-JEV: it was Stephan Kleinschmidt. And to be frank, most of us smirked when the idea was launched for the first time some years ago. It’s worth reading the first press release that explained the idea of SP-councillor Stephan Kleinschmidt to the general public for the first time. We should have all the more respect that a mere idea was transformed into reality with the help of a successful team. The fact that many people and organisations join in as supporters, shows only how successful the initiative is!

FUEN and its minorities will obviously use the platform of the Capital of Culture 2017. Hans Heinrich Hansen, FUEN-president explains: “Together with the minorities we will celebrate in Sønderborg in 2017. Already in 2014 we will start, at the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Dybbøl, when around 200 representatives of minorities from all over Europe will come to the German-Danish border region for the 65th jubilee of FUEN and the 30th jubilee of YEN. The FUEN Congress is the largest meeting of the autochthonous minorities of Europe.

For now however, we should keep our fingers crossed for Sønderborg / Sonderburg 2017.”

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